farm - barn

The Barn

The barn looms over me, peeling red paint on worn slats of wood. I have to reach up to pull open the door, and it rattles as I step up from the grass into the barn. The earthy smell of hay wafts toward me as my eyes adjust to the dim light flecked with dust. To my left a wall rises upwards and to the right stand long-empty horse stalls. I pass the stalls and come into the cavernous, open barn. The ceiling is flying over my head, unreachable, with a cable running along the highest beam and out the small square window at the end. My dad tells me they used to use that cable to haul bales of hay into the barn.

To my left a giant door opens to the barnyard, and beyond that stretch the fields of corn and soybeans that the neighbors farm for us now. I’m reminded of the pictures I’ve seen of someone standing in a beach house staring out at the ocean, but Iowa is my ocean and the wind makes rippling waves across the corn tassels.

Hanging in the center of the room, strung on a rope that somehow loops over that highest beam at the very top of the ceiling, is a bag full of hay. The hay swing. Halfway across the room the beams and rafters make a sort of H shape, and bales of hay stack one on top of each other, piling themselves into a staircase to reach the H’s crossbeam. A wire strung up from one side of the barn to another works as a makeshift railing, a handhold while walking across the beam.

And from there, if someone throws me the swing, I can grab hold of it and jump. Arc high into the dusty air toward the horse stalls, and then swoop back toward the open door and blue sky. I look down at the swirls of dirt on the wood floor, up at my cousins lined up along the beam waiting their turn, and back out at the door. I imagine swooping toward that door with so much force I fly right out, soaring over those rolling hills and golden fields to whatever lies beyond. To the other side of the ocean.

New Year’s Recommendations

I’m not one for setting New Year’s resolutions — I’m too prone to getting overly excited at first and then losing interest in them. Instead, in recent years I have focused on continually reviewing and recommitting to my priorities, and trying to build sustainable habits. I still go through ups and downs, times where I am more or less successful at maintaining those habits, but I find that this approach works better for me throughout the year.

That said, the beginning of the year is a nice time to reflect on what has worked well over the past year and share some recommendations with those of you looking for help with your own habits and priorities:

1. YogaToday — If you are looking for a low-friction way to introduce more yoga into your routine, I highly recommend YogaToday. They have the best array of teachers on any yoga website I’ve tried, with high-quality classes and a large archive to choose from. I don’t think online yoga classes can fully replace in-person classes with a live teacher, but I find that I’m more likely to practice yoga multiple times a week when I can also do it at home.

2. Audio Dharma — If you are interested in mindfulness meditation, want to deepen your understanding of it, or want a little boost to help you meditate more often, I recommend this podcast. They have new episodes nearly every day, including talks and guided meditations.

3. edX — If you want to take an online, university-level course, I recommend trying edX first. I have tried many other sites offering MOOCs or other online learning environments, and I’ve never found another service that provides the same sort of high-level, in-depth, long-lasting teaching as the edX classes.

4. — If you are trying to spend more time outside or exercising, geocaching can be a great way to motivate yourself to get out there. Basically, geocaching is like doing a treasure hunt. You have GPS coordinates (or, if you’re like me, an app on your phone mapping those coordinates) and you go out for a walk to find the cache. I use it as an excuse to walk or hike in new places I might not otherwise explore.

5. Blogging U. — If you are trying to blog more often, expand your blogging skills, or increase your connections with other bloggers, my colleagues lead a variety of courses in the Blogging U series. Coming up next is Blogging 101: Zero to Hero. (I admit I’ve only tried the Photo 101 course, and I wasn’t the most diligent student, but I’ve seen so many people get so much out of these courses.)

How about you? Any fun or helpful resources you’d recommend?

The Mystery Inside the Enigma

I just got back from watching The Imitation Game, a movie about Alan Turing and the other cryptanalysts who broke the Enigma code during World War II. It was touching to see the (admittedly dramatized) personal side of Turing’s story, and Benedict Cumberbatch’s acting was superb. But more than anything I find the Enigma machine and its role in the war intriguing.

For those of you who also enjoy the slightly more technical side, here’s an explanation of how the Enigma machine created nearly 159,000,000,000,000,000,000 permutations and gained the reputation of being an unbreakable cipher:

“We have to love each other. You hear me? It’s up to us.”


I’m experiencing that disappointing combination of feeling horrified and yet not at all surprised. :/

Originally posted on King of States!:

My friend-who-I don’t-keep-in-touch-with-as-much-as-I-should Charmaine Chua posted this story on Facebook earlier today. I read it, threw up in my mouth a little, read it again, and threw up a little more.

I asked her if I could share it. At the risk of causing you to throw up in your mouth as well, here it is.

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